Rafael Cabrera-Bello stranded in Florida since Players Championship


Rafael Cabrera-Bello of Spain hit one of the signature shots in the history of The Players Championship in 2017, making the first-ever albatross at the par-5 16th hole of the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

The three-time European PGA Tour winner has had more than time on his hands to practice just a few hundred yards from that hole — or perhaps to try and recreate it.

It was an 8-iron, from 181 yards, after a massive 337-yard drive.

Bello has been unable to get he and his family — plus his agent and his wife and daughter — back to their home in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions. They rented a home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, for the week of The Players, and when it was clear they couldn’t fly back to Dubai, they extended the lease through May 31.

“We’ve only been able to make decisions with the information we had at the time,” Bello told PGATour.com.

With Bello is his wife, Sofia, and their 8-month-old daughter, Alva Margareta. Filling out the home are his manager, Richard Rayment; Rayment’s wife, Gabby; and their daughter Nikki.

It’s not a new experience — they all live in the same apartment building in Dubai.

“After The Players, we thought, OK, what are we going to do? We decided to rent a place for two weeks,” Rayment told PGATour.com. “Then things changed quickly. The UAE closed its borders, so we had to find another home and got the one we’re in now for a month and possibly one more. So really we’re just here, on lockdown a long way from home. It’s crazy, what’s happening. I’ve made so many calls I could be a travel agent here.”

Bello shot 68 in the first round of The Players. He said he’s hit some balls at the practice area or played nine holes at a time. The only times he’s left Ponte Vedra Beach is to see swing coach David Leadbetter in Orlando.

Bello said his family is scattered throughout Europe, but is doing well, including his 89-year-old grandmother Egda, who lives in Gran Canaria, Spain.

“I speak with them every other day, and send texts,” he told PGATour.com. “My brother is in Malaga, my sister in London. My wife’s family, her mom lives in Portugal, and her dad in Sweden. They are all safe and healthy.

“It’s more a concern for our grandparents who are high age and higher risk. We’re going to learn to enjoy every single day because in the blink of an eye things can change so dramatically. The hardest thing is to see so much suffering and worrying about loved ones. I know the end of the tunnel is somewhere, but I just don’t know where it is.”

 

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